Hiker talks of year in Iran prison

Shourd, her boyfriend Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal were captured in 2009 while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border.

Shourd yesterday talked about her experiences with 'The Associated Press' in one of her first interviews since her release on September 14 after officials in Oman mediated bail.

One of her happiest days, she said, was the celebration of her 32nd birthday last month. Somehow the men, who remain in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, had persuaded a guard into bringing her the cake and even found a way to give her a whiff of liberty.

They talked her through a whole imaginary day that they called a "freedom walk" - from waking up and having pancakes, to going to a lake, then walking to her mother's apartment. When they came to the part of their story where the apartment door opened, Bauer and Fattal spun Shourd around.

"They had brought all the pictures we had of our family and put them on these boxes, so everyone was there, and it was a surprise party. It was beautiful," she said, her voice catching. "I cried."

But most days in prison were far more monotonous - or terrifying. She recalled how the three made a vow while blindfolded in a prison van shortly after their capture: If they were separated, they would go on hunger strike until they were reunited.

Shourd starved herself for four days, lying alone in her cell and growing weaker. In prison, she kept reviewing her last day of freedom. What could they have done differently? What if, when they asked a tea vendor near a waterfall for advice on a hiking path, they had gone another way?

On the fourth day, the hikers were reunited for five minutes. Shourd began eating again, but their captivity was just beginning.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told the AP that he hopes Bauer and Fattal would be able to provide evidence that "they had no ill intention in crossing the border" so that they can be released.

Iran has issued espionage-related indictments against the three of them, which could bring trials for the two men and proceedings in absentia for Shourd, although she says she hasn't ruled out returning to face trial.

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